Williamsburg Inspiration

Well friends, I must admit...my determination to get back into blogging has been unfortunately timed with the end of the school year for my kiddos.  I'm so busy running around buying teacher gifts and planning ice cream parties I haven't had much time for blogging!  

So before May is completely over, I thought I'd share a quick inspiration I had last month when my family and I went to Colonial Williamsburg for spring break!  And just for the record...great trip for an 8 and 6 year old...not so great trip for a 1 year old with fast legs and grabby hands.  Hence the baby backpack in the (very unposed) photo below!

Williamsburg in April was just gorgeous.  Greener than my native Ohio, with the yellow and purple flowers just peeking out.  Unbelievable!

I know absolutely nothing about photography, but the scenery was so pretty that it made even my photos look good!

One day we (over) paid for our older two kids to rent a colonial costume.  This was SO much fun for Nina, our daughter.  She spent her time curtsying and acting very demure, as she believed a young colonial lady should.  It was so sweet!

Our son Henry was less than thrilled with the costume options for boys, but got really psyched when they showed him the hat.  The hat couldn't save him from a few 6-year-old catastrophes, though, as you can see below. (I think this particular one had to do with not wanting to walk because his legs huuurrrt!!!)  It's so hard to be Henry sometimes.

Eventually we did get him to smile!

The beauty of Williamsburg is just so lovely because it's so untouched.  I love our suburban home in Ohio and our little community here, but what I wouldn't give to live on a farm (maybe minus the farm chores)!

So I came home and gave my suburban home a little farmhouse love with colors that reminded me of our trip.  It's the little things, right?

I hope you all have a wonderful last few days of May.  Can you believe it's almost summer??


Remodeling the Basement, Part IV

Are you guys sick of my basement yet?  I kind of am.  I promise you this is the last installment of this series, but I can't stop until you've seen the rest of it!  Plus I think this part is the most dramatic change, so that's kind of fun too!

Here's a before shot of the basement.  You can see off in the distance that the left side (as you come down the basement stairs) was open, with a large structural pole in the middle (covered by paneling).  They had a pool table over there. 

We really liked the openness of it, but when sweet Vivi was born, we gave up our guest room to make her nursery.  (Good problem.) Plus, my husband Brent works from home, so he was desperate to have an office with a real door that closed, so that he could actually get stuff done if the kids were in their playroom during his workday.

I am so proud to say that handyman Brent did all this!  He built walls, installed doors, hung new paneling to match the old stuff, moved the stair railing from one side of the stairs to the other, built shelves...basically everything!  We hired someone for the electrical because we thought it would be better if the house didn't burn down.  :)

So that door to the right leads to Brent's (tiny) home office, but he claims he likes that room better because it catches some of the natural light from the other side of the basement.  My favorite part is that antique door.  We picked it up on Craig's List, sanded it down and re-stained it, found some new hardware, and then hung it on a sliding track.  It's such a tiny room that a traditional door would have been really hard.  Plus, we love how the warm wood of the antique door is the first thing you see when you come down the stairs!

Here's a slightly better shot of the office.  It's so small and the lighting is so weird that it's hard to get a good photo.  And I haven't found time to hide all those computer wires so it's not very pretty either!

Behind Brent's desk is a closet with some simple wood shelves.  I hung those curtains believing that they would actually close and hide some of the clutter...but they've never once been closed, I don't think.  Oh well!

The view from his desk chair.  My husband was (he would say is) an Eagle Scout.  See all those patches?  Maybe that's why he's so handy.  He could probably also tie some really cool knots, but we haven't found an avenue for that particular skill yet.  :)

OK, back out to the hallway.  Here's a shot of the old basement, with the stairs on the left to orient you.

And here's our new guest room!  You can kind of see the doorjamb in the foreground there, which is now the first thing you encounter on your left when you get to the bottom of the stairs.

I really wanted to make the room feel cozy, which I guess is good because there are no windows over on this side of the basement.  I didn't want people to feel all creeped out when they stay at our house! This inspiration picture below (from Ballard I think?) was kind of what I was going for...but I was trying to use what we already had in the house, so mine's not nearly as pretty as theirs!

It's not a huge room but there's enough space for suitcases and hopefully no one has yet hit their head on our drop ceiling tiles.  That door you see below leads to the storage room and furnace.

Antique dresser from Craig's List with some simple new knobs from Hobby Lobby to spice it up a bit!

My little helper in the corner!

I tried to add a lot of little lamps around the room, but kept the shades black with gold lining in the inside.  The gold lining reflects the light and is key for warm light.  If you have a black shade without a lining, I find the light to be cold and almost purple...makes me feel like I'm in a hospital!  So if I have a shade that doesn't have a lining at all, I've actually had good luck with using a thin bead of hot glue on the inside edges and some gold fabric and attaching one myself.  OR, if your shade has a lining already but it isn't gold, you can get gold acrylic paint and some liquid fabric paint medium (to mix with regular paint to create fabric paint) and re-paint the inside of the shade if it's got a different color liner.  Make sense?  I can't tell you what a difference it makes to the whole feel of a room!

Below is a scrap piece of barn wood on the wall.  We attached some old doorknobs we'd collected and then I just sealed the barn wood with some clear polyurethane.  The queen headboard was another Craig's List find, and originally it was all wood, but I painted the trim and bedposts with some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in French Linen (dark wax on top).

This is the closet off the guest room.  It was big enough to fit a work table in there, so now I can keep my sewing machine set up and not have to move it from room to room to get it out of the way! (Still I can only sew straight lines.)

Lots of shelves and storage options, but we made sure to include a spot for guests to hang some clothes if they need to.  Just have to move my gift wrap out of the way if they do!  :)

My husband rolls his eyes at the sheer number of little lamps I have all over my house, but they make such a difference for me, especially in this closet.  Instead of a teeny tiny prison cell, it actually feels cozy when I'm working down here!

So there you have it!  The basement is complete. Now I'll stop going on and on about it like your Great Uncle Merle with a four-hour slide show of his trip to Arizona.  :)


Remodeling the Basement, Part III

Thank you all so much for your comments and emails to me after my last post.  Truly.  I wasn't sure if I had done the right thing by getting so real on this blog but your responses have been so gracious and positive.  Just another lesson that we don't need more perfection, just reality!  So much easier to relate to.  :)  I am so, so touched, and I thank you sincerely. 

I'm back today to share with you more of the major overhaul that our 1970s-era basement received recently.    Below you can see a "before" photo, from the previous owners.  It was very vintage and cozy down there, but needed a little facelift to bring it into modern day!

As I mentioned before, we started by painting the wood panels.  It brightened things up right away!  Our couch and TV are in basically the same place as the before photo.

Below is a little closer view.  I wanted to bring in some warm colors and lamps to cozy it up in here.  We've all been in basements that feel cold and sterile and they always have me racing back for the rooms above ground.  I was trying to create a room I'd actually like to hang out in!

This antique dresser was less than $100 at an antique shop.  It's not in great shape, but it doesn't have to hold a lot of weight, and probably my kids' plastic sword fights and who-knows-what-else will finish the wrecking job, but who cares?

My husband removed one of the drawers, added some hinges and chains to the drawer front and re-attached it.  Now we can easily hide the DVD and cable box.  Just a little magnet keeps it closed. I would have been nervous to hack up a more expensive dresser, but I love the freedom of my little bargain hunting finds!

To the right of the couch area is the kids' play zone.  Those built-ins were here when we moved in, how great is that?  They hide so much junk!  I can promise you it never looks this clean.  Usually we can't see the floors!

I added some panels on either side of the glass block windows mostly because I hang curtains on everything that'll stand still.  :)

And here's a view looking back on the room from over near the built-ins.  Sorry for the bad lighting!

And because I'm determined to keep it real around here, I'll leave you with a photo of how this area usually looks, before Mama swoops in and cleans it up for a blog photo!

I'll be back later in the week with the final (I promise!) installment of our basement remodel.  Then on to some new stuff!  Have a great day!


A Post that Hopefully Won't Scare You Away

I've been contemplating this post for awhile.  I'm really freaked out about publishing it, and butterflies (buzzing bees?) have been in my belly all day.  Maybe there's no one left out there who still visits here, and I'm scared for nothing!  :)  But I'm compelled to post for many reasons, and I thank two bloggers, a longtime favorite, Holly Mathis, and a new discovery, Linsey of Bravehearted Beauty, for their brave and honest writing that set examples for me.

I was talking with a friend recently and remarked that if your life looks perfect and "put together" on the outside, people will naturally assume that you have everything together on the inside too.  I know that's generally how I operate.  It got me thinking about my blog.  Can you believe I've been writing here since 2008?  Almost seven years!  It used to be that I was more candid with you all about my "real" life.  I let you know when I was heading to the hospital to have our baby boy in 2009.  I told you honestly when I was really struggling with homesickness and loneliness after our move to San Francisco in 2011.  But soon after that I went into hibernation, as I called it, cut way back on my blogging, and basically stopped the personal sharing.

I know many of you just visit me here for the decorating stuff, and I totally get it!  That's mostly why I read blogs too.  :)  We crafty girls have to stick together!  (And I'm still mostly all about decorating here.) But I've started noticing that I really love knowing more about the person behind the cute window treatments or fabulous garage sale find.  Somehow it makes me feel like I know her, and then I become even more interested in what she's up to in her decorating schemes.  I suspect you all are like me in that way.  And, since some of you have been with me for almost seven years...or maybe just for the past seven minutes...I wanted to let you in on what's really been going on.

The photo below was taken in November, 2011.  It was my husband's first half marathon, one he had trained extensively for and, unexpectedly, got injured for, a few weeks before the race.  He crossed the finish line, but due to his injury he had to walk a decent bit and was really disappointed with his performance.  Because of some of the info on his race "bib," the spectators in this race could easily discern what had happened to this young(ish!) guy hobbling by with obvious disappointment all over him.  The bib gave away his age category, his first name, and the "corral" he started in.  Anyone who knew the unique lexicon of reading a race bib could tell that this guy was having a rough race.  He'll never forget the calls of encouragement - very personal and specific sometimes - that got him through those 13.1 miles.

That really got me thinking.  I mean, how many of us are fighting very real battles in our personal lives, ones that don't allow for cheering spectators?  Right before this race, in early October, I had undergone a D&C for a miscarriage late in my first trimester.  I was incredibly far from my midwestern home, living in San Francisco with two little ones and very little support system, family and friends multiple time zones away.  I was already really bad off, as some of you may remember.  I was still raw the morning of my husband's race, and as I watched all these athletes reaching goals and crossing finish lines and slapping high fives, alongside my struggling husband, I said to myself "What would the stats on my race bib say right now?"  Reeling from Miscarriage.  Crippling Loneliness.  Homesickness and Depression. Loss of Hope.  If they made such a race bib for everyday life (and maybe they should), I wonder if we'd all benefit from the honesty.

Ironically, it was that miscarriage that forced me to be honest within the fledgling friendships I was creating in California.  I was amazed at the outpouring of love I received from people who barely knew me.  I had started telling people about our pregnancy because, let's face it, by baby #3 it kind of announces itself before you're necessarily ready to announce it!  So there were quite a few people I had to "untell" when they couldn't find a heartbeat at 12 weeks.  I hated every second of that forced transparency.  I know that if I had had my own choice, I would have dealt with my grief in private.  That's why I dropped off the face of the blogging world, and why no one in this space ever knew what happened.

A few months later, at my husband's office Christmas party, someone snapped this photo.  I guess we look happy.  But when I look at it, all I can see is the utter misery inside, and I'm exhausted even now just thinking about how hard it was just to look like I wasn't about to fall apart. But it's a cute photo and looks like we're happy and fun and lighthearted.  It's so easy for us to let people think we're OK.

The next year was rough.  We encountered unexplained infertility for over a year after our miscarriage.  Living in a beat-up, non-pretty house with a highway in my backyard affected me more than I'd like to admit, compounding the homesickness.  My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.  (Thank God he is cancer-free today after surgery and six months of chemotherapy.)  Then we had two more early miscarriages.  I started undergoing tests to figure out why my pregnancy "record" was a heartbreaking 2-4. (I had also had a miscarriage before the birth of our oldest daughter, bringing my total at the time to 2 living children and 4 losses.) We discovered I have a blood clotting disorder called MTHFR, as well as a genetic condition known as Mosaic Turner's Syndrome, which, as best geneticists can tell, damaged the chromosomes in some of my eggs, but not all, so that each month became a roll of the dice: good egg? or bad egg leading to unavoidable miscarriage?  It felt like every single thing in my life needed help, grace...fixing.

Finally, we were able to move back to Ohio, to my hometown, surrounded by family again, in June of 2012.  We went from this (a small snapshot of the scary carpet in our run-down rental home in California):

 To this:

And in November 2012 we discovered we were pregnant again.  The doctors couldn't say for sure if this baby would be healthy or...not.  It wasn't until the 20 week ultrasound that they said with any degree of certainty that we were out of the woods.  After our losses, though, there was not a single minute of that entire nine months that I believed I was going to get a baby out of this.  Not a single "we're pregnant!" Facebook post.  In fact, I cried in fear when my mom brought me a baby gift when I was 38 weeks pregnant.  I had gestational diabetes, scary blood clots in my legs, and "high risk" fetal monitoring all the time.  My doctor tells me that during active labor in the hospital I was still asking if the baby was alive.  Fear can be so crippling, can steal so much joy.

But Vivian Frances did come into the world on August 9, 2013.   My words can't describe my feelings of relief and thankfulness.

Vivi's birth didn't fix everything.  I am beyond thankful for all that God has given me, my precious husband, beautiful children, and forever home in Ohio. But this post is not meant to be a "Hey, I had it real bad but look at me now!" kind of thing.  I have anxiety every day and things are not perfect, never will be.  We all walk around with scars and wounds that have changed the core of who we are.  I share my story partly because of what I said earlier, that I like to "get to know" other bloggers and after seven years here I'd like to get back to making this blog more of a community.  I am full of ideas for future house posts and have some major projects on the horizon.  I'll be posting more regularly for sure!

But if I am going to be posting more regularly, I want to start clean.  Let you in on where I've been, so you're getting more than just the shiny, pretty finished product.  Lately this blog has made both my personal life and my home decorating look effortless, showing a lot of befores and afters, and not a lot of durings, if you know what I mean.  If someone presents a pulled-together exterior, we assume the interior is just as pulled-together.  And I'm done with that.  Honestly, if I had all the money in the world, I still think I'd love the thrill of the project, of bringing something from ugly to beauty, the junky Craig's List castoff being sanded and painted and buffed into something new.  (I think God in His grace loves that too.)  I like the process.  And I thought you might like the process too...both in life and in decorating.  So I'll be showing you more of both, I think.

I'll be back with some fun new house stuff next week!  I'm still the Queen Bee, and I am still (my husband might say, unfortunately) always looking for the next new project!  :)  In the meantime, though, thank you for your kindness, and for reading.